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United States Government News Politics Technology

Should the United States' New CTO Really Be a CIO? 243

CurtMonash writes "Barack Obama promised to appoint the United States' first Chief Technology Officer. Naturally, the blogosphere is full of discussion as to who that should be. I favor American Management Systems founder and former IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti. Richard Koman thinks it should be one of the better state CTOs. John Doerr, going in a different direction, thinks it should be his partner Bill Joy. We can bandy names back and forth all month, but first a more fundamental question needs to be answered: What do we need most — a get-things-done CIO (Chief Information Officer), or a more visionary true CTO? I think it's a CIO, and based on his campaign statements it appears Obama agrees. Management of government IT is a huge, generally unsolved problem, and we need somebody deeply experienced to have a fighting chance. Of course, that doesn't preclude recruiting a visionary CTO in addition, but the highest priority is a CIO. What do you think?"
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Should the United States' New CTO Really Be a CIO?

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  • Linus Torvaldes (Score:2, Insightful)

    by larry bagina ( 561269 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @09:17AM (#25686941) Journal

    Only Linus can do it. He's a visionary, he has good project managements skills, and he's not afraid to tell it like it is. Everyone else will be a corporate shill more interested in funneling money back to their own products.

    We need Linux and we need Linux.

  • Re:Linus Torvaldes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @09:28AM (#25686979) Homepage Journal

    Everyone else will be a corporate shill more interested in funneling money back to their own products.

    Which is exactly the kind of person who will be appointed. You don't really buy the 'new politics' crap do you? Lobbyists and high level corporate officers will remain the pool from which most appointments are drawn.

    Linus doesn't line anyone's pockets in Washington.

  • Re:new territory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @09:32AM (#25687009)

    My father has worked for AMS for the past 20+ years on a number of government contracts. The one thing he always comes back saying is how screwed up and redundant a lot of the setups are--it's layer upon layer of hackjobs just to get the various systems to talk to one another. Rossotti is well aware of the current state of technology affairs within the government.

    Money is at the crux of this issue, in two ways:

    1) The government often is unwilling or unable to invest in the type of infrastructure they really need.

    2) Unless the CTO *really* controls all the various agencies IT budget the CTO will be powerless. Agencies will listen nicely and nod their collective heads; then do whatever the want to because it's their money, not the CTO's.

    1 can be fixed with a well thought out plan and budget; 2 will take real change and radically alter the power structure. I doubt that will happen. Trying to do so will accomplish one of the hardest things in DC - getting agency's to put aside their turf fights and unite to defeat a common enemy; in this case the CTO.

  • Re:new territory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @09:35AM (#25687021)
    Oh, fully agreed that it won't be easy, and may in fact be impossible. But I think having someone who's already well-versed in where things currently stand is a good place to start.
  • Visionary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by VampireByte ( 447578 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @09:41AM (#25687051) Homepage

    RMS might not be the choice, but it should be someone with vision. Tech should not be about record companies suing customers to maintain an outdated business model, stupid software and business process patents, paranoid monitoring of citizens, outsourcing jobs to cheaper countries, etc. CIOs seem to promote such things.

    We need to get back to kids being excited about tech, folks in a garage or dorm room creating a product, the Internet being a fun place, etc. Bill Joy seems to be more in line with this. Some CIO or whatever from a company that just kluges together overpriced systems doesn't seem very enlightened to me.

  • Re:change baby! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sleigher ( 961421 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @09:46AM (#25687075)
    Although I somewhat agree, you have to remember that he is in Washington. Even though he wants to change, Washington doesn't. Therefore it may prove important that he choose people from within to create that change. I have a wait and see attitude with Obama.
  • by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @10:01AM (#25687133)

    CTO often implies oversight of science as well as technology. This would be a very bad thing. The person in charge of IT, who makes technology recommendations to the FCC, and who advises the president on the future of computer technology should not be the same person who is in charge of the NIH, NSF and is advising the president on things like particle physics (and visa versa).

  • Technology not IT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sane? ( 179855 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @10:04AM (#25687149)
    For such a CTO you need to make sure they are NOT just a information technology person - the real growth areas for the future are all outside IT. You need someone with a broad viewpoint and the ability to see the connections across widely varying areas. You also need them to be able to see consequences and how things will play out in future. An IT person is probably one of the worst picks you could make, too myopic.
  • Re:change baby! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rhsanborn ( 773855 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @10:12AM (#25687185)
    Also remember that he has relatively little experience in Washington, and to get things done in Washington he is going to need people with contacts and context in that environment. Most good presidents are really good presidents because they know everything and know how to do everything, it's because they surrounded themselves with people who collectively knew all the things they needed to know. One of those things they need to know is how to get things done in Washington.

    That's something that may be of particular importance depending on how the Democrats in Congress want to try and use him. They may be under the impression that he is their new young puppet. It will be interesting to see.
  • by michaelepley ( 239861 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @10:13AM (#25687191) Homepage
    What a long winded and rambling question that really tries to play up the essentially artificial distinction between a CTO and a CIO, two abstract titles that are not particularly informative with respect to what the holders actually do. Most of the distinction seams manufactured by these same people to justify their titles.

    That said, it would not be surprising that I suspect it would ultimately be a hybrid CTO/CIO.
  • Re:No need (Score:3, Insightful)

    by R2.0 ( 532027 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @10:24AM (#25687243)

    Because it's always better to limit someone's choice "for their own good". If I want a $100 TV and a $50 converter instead of a $300 digital model, that's just too damned bad - I'm getting that 16:9 aspect ration whether I want it or not.

  • First things first (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Saturday November 08, 2008 @10:34AM (#25687295) Homepage

    The first thing that needs to be done isn't to select the darling of the blogosphere - but rather to define what the hell a national level CIO/CTO does. What is his authority and how far does it reach? Etc... Etc...

  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @10:51AM (#25687381) Homepage Journal

    The Chief Information Officer directs not just all information technology, but also all information systems and procedures at the organization. The CIO has control of much more than the machines and their operation. The CIO has control of the org's media relationships, the corporate communications, the "brand ID", and a lot of other details. That power in the White House is much more a part of the Press Secretary and Communications Director offices. It's much more a human-powered bureaucracy than is CTO and the IT department.

    That CIO power is not at all what we're talking about. In an org like the White House, most of their business is communications and information. What we are talking about changing in the White House is someone who is on top of technology, whether internal to the White House or the goverment, or external in the nation or the world. That's a much more specific job, that does need a new post, a CTO.

    I think that the Google execs who are already hanging around Obama in public will be the ones to select and present potential CTOs for Obama and his exec team to choose from. I like the nation talking about possibilities in public, but I know that the job will be more influenced by the insiders than by website discussions. Some things never change, and maybe they shouldn't.

  • by turbidostato ( 878842 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @11:05AM (#25687449)

    "What a long winded and rambling question that really tries to play up the essentially artificial distinction between a CTO and a CIO"

    Quite to the point. I myself was considering answer the question "Should the United States' New CTO Really Be a CIO?" saying that Soulskill made some interesting points but that he took CTO and CIO's roles just reversed: on my book, the CIO is the one that might be "visionary" while the CTO is usually the "get-things-done" guy, so go figure.

  • Re:Linus Torvaldes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xant ( 99438 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @11:16AM (#25687501) Homepage

    Nobody lined Obama's pockets except me and thirty million of my fellow Americans, 25 bucks at a time. Can't you cynics keep it to a dull roar for even the two months it'll take to get him sworn in? Wait and see what happens.

  • Re:Linus Torvaldes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @12:17PM (#25687813) Journal

    Well, actually, we don't know that for sure. Obama's web donations campaign turned off ther fraud check name validation on the credit cards which meant that not only were they were perfectly happy accepting a donation on a credit card owned by Joe Six Pack under the name Joe Q Public, they went through specific trouble to make it possible.

    You may believe the hype, you might even be wanting to perpetuate it. But there are simple facts about obama or his campaign team that don't completely hold water. And this isn't even starting to go into the business of the foreign donations and all. If you cared to know anything about that, you can easily do a google search and find stories on them. Simply look for "Obama turned off credit card fraud detections" and "foreigners donating to Obama"

    BTW, this claim that he raised most of his money from private contributors isn't an accurate representation when he didn't verify who was sending him money. It simply can't be as one report found out, with the credit card fraud stuff disabled, he was able to donate $20- ten times in different names all of which contained the letters Barack Obama spelled in different ways. It will take years for the FEC to sort that out but it shows a picture that people should at least be questioning.

    Claiming that no pac or corporate or foreign money was donated simply because you stopped checking where the source of the money came from does not make it true. In fact, I'm not sure how you can even make the claim after you stopped checking where the money was coming from.

  • by $0.02 ( 618911 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @12:55PM (#25688073)
    You can't think of anyone you'd like less? How about Darl McBride?
  • Re:Linus Torvaldes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jimmy_B ( 129296 ) <slashdot@jimran[ ] ['dom' in gap]> on Saturday November 08, 2008 @12:58PM (#25688105) Homepage

    Your sources show that it was possible to donate to Obama anonymously, and that some people probably did so. That's not a problem, because anonymous donations can't buy influence; the problem is when someone donates tons of money and the candidate returns the favor.

    The thing you mention about fraud detection sounds like a technicality that would have been decided by the bank or by a low-ranking system administrator, not by Obama himself. And you didn't provide any sources.

    These days, it seems like conservatives are so desperate for dirt that they'll latch onto anything, even if it's completely artificial. Bush was corrupt, but saying "Democrats are corrupt too!" isn't a defense, isn't true, and isn't very mature.

  • Re:Linus Torvaldes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ukemike ( 956477 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @01:59PM (#25688479) Homepage

    Although it'd be nice to believe that a socialist poltician got his money from the masses, it's not true. Obama's pockets were lined by George Soros's, . Do some searches like 'obama campaign finance fraud' and 'obama foreign donations'.

    Boy there are sooo many things wrong with this statement.

    First, though I would like it if Obama really was a socialist he isn't. He isn't even close. Anyone who believes that a progressive income tax is socialism has no understanding of what socialism is.

    Next, George Soros is a dyed in the wool capitalist. He would not support a real socialist candidate.

    Next, Move On does not belong to George Soros. It is controlled by a small cabal of people that could be characterized as "progressive democrats." What is special about MoveOn, is that they were really the first organization that really leveraged some effective techniques for on-line organizing and on-line fund raising. They were in the right position to tap into the very deep current of disgust at the Bush policies. They are also not very democratically controlled, and often make dumb tactical mistakes.

    Last, drinking the Fox news cool-aid that typically leads to the kinds of irrational thinking displayed above, also causes bigotry, irrational fears, and eventually permanent brain damage. You really ought to lay off that stuff and pick a safer recreational drug like sniffing gasoline or mainlining speedballs.

  • Re:Linus Torvaldes (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 08, 2008 @04:31PM (#25689403)

    Your argument logically contradicts itself. The point of a PAC or lobbyist donating money is to influence the candidate. if, as you claim, the sources are not checked, then it would be impossible for the candidate to know or verify that a PAC xyz or lobbyist abc... therefore it would be hard to exercise influence over them.

    e.g. If I wanted to bribe obama, I could offer him $100k to do what I wanted... however, with source checking turned off, if i give $100k as 1,000 $100 donations by different unchecked sources, Obama could (and likely would) simply deny knowledge of my donation and my influence is lost.

    Secondly, you assume that corporations or other sources would be willing to make hundreds or thousands of small donations... as much as I'd like to believe there are evil influences, I think the laziness of people trumps their evil... you'd have to show me some proof for me to believe some evil corporate type (or their paid lackey) sat around to give thousands of online donations.

  • Re:Linus Torvaldes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jimmy_B ( 129296 ) <slashdot@jimran[ ] ['dom' in gap]> on Saturday November 08, 2008 @08:48PM (#25691013) Homepage

    See, now you're way off in tinfoil hat-land. I never said that Obama or his campaign did any of that; I said that the bank did. Your alternative theory, that Obama turned off fraud protection so that foreign donors could use his donation page to launder money, is absurd, mainly because that's a ridiculously inefficient and conspicuous way to launder money and the fraud protection wouldn't have stopped it anyways. I mean, come on; you think someone is going to create thousands of bank accounts so that he can donate $20 from each one, and that no one would notice thousands of bank accounts all receiving funds from a single source and sending them to the same destination, but that in order to do so he needed Obama to disable a system designed to prevent the use of stolen credit cards? You, my friend, have observed two dots, and concluded that they must be the eyes of a T-Rex. You should try connecting them instead.

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.